United States President Barack Obama’s calls for a reform of the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program is a good start but is an “incomplete” measure, according to the person who originally blew the whistle on the agency’s snooping activities.
The remark from former NSA security contractor Edward Snowden, followed an announcement on Tuesday by Obama that he is calling on Congress to “quickly” pass legislation that will order the revamp of the NSA’s surveillance program that gathers telephone records of U.S. citizens.
“The very first open and adversarial court to ever judge these programs has now declared them ‘Orwellian’ and ‘likely unconstitutional,’ Snowden said in a statement that appeared on the web site of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “In the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress is considering historic, albeit incomplete, reforms.”
The reform Obama seeks would allow the NSA access to records only through a court order.
Phone records would remain in the possession of phone companies for a legally required period of 18 months as opposed the current situation where the NSA is able to hang onto data for up to five years.
If approved by Congress, the revamp will also mean that phone companies have to provide data to the government in a “technologically compatible format.”
Phone companies will also have to make data available on a “continuing basis” and this would include data on a new calls made or received after the order is received.
The government will also be allowed search for related records for callers up to two “hops” away from the number being monitored.
“This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public’s seat at the table of government,” Snowden said. “…And President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.”